Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shot through the heart!

I think have a bad heart.

No, not as in "I'm eeeeeevil", bad heart as in "it's not very strong or healthy".

Let me say first off that I have never been diagnosed with any heart related condition. I've also never been tested for anything heart related, so I'm completely in the dark on this. My overall health I judge on how I feel, period. If i'm snuffly and feverish, it's easier to tell that something is wrong, but years of yoga and knowing what I'm eating has fine tuned my ability to read my body.

For some reason, I've always felt that my heart was not up to par with the rest of me. Even at the peak of my athleticism (5-6 days of senior cheerleading practice and games + 2 days of karate classes + 3 days of ballet classes) I could feel my heart aching sometimes, I thought it might beat right out of my ears!

The thought of a weak heart was never really stressing or alarming, hence the never going to see a doctor about it, but one morning changed my life forever. After a party in Evan's old apartment, let's say about a year ago, I fell asleep with a few beers in my system. I had a fitful and unrestful sleep, and awoke the next morning with my heart feeling like it was being squeezed in a vice. It was unlike anything I'd ever felt before.

Drinking was never out of the norm for me, I had fun (not TOO much fun :P) in college partying with my cheerleaders, gaming nerds, and sorority sisters. Usually the morning after, I'd wake up WAY too early craving a big breakfast, but with little physical reprocussions. Aside from a bit of dehydration, I was pretty much fine! This pain though, was frightening and all too real.

The vice grip of pain lessened throughout the day, but never really left. Had I health insurance at the time, a trip to the Emergency room would have been in order. I didn't want to freak myself or Evan out, so I just took it easy and tried not to stress. A few days passed and I was relatively back to normal, but I was scared to touch alcohol after that. Since then, my life has been dry in that department.

Then, on Aug 17 (my birthday), I got a call in the middle of my swing dance birthday party. My dad had suffered a heart attack, almost 98% blockage. I BROKE DOWN. I actually don't remember much of the rest of that night, except sitting on the sidewalk crying uncontrollably that my father was going to die, while Evan calmly got all the info from my mom on the phone.

My dad was fine. No serious damage, but he needed to make some life changes. Since then, he's switched his eating habits and lost a considerable amount of weight. While he's not trim and toned yet, he's a much more normal weight and leads a normal life (with the help of a few medications). A bit of research into my family history shows that I am at a high risk of anaemia, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. (Awesome. Well, I've already been diagnosed with anaemia before, so just two more to go! Woo!) I figured that since I was anaemic at the time, the alcohol probably thinned my blood out too much and that caused the heart hurt.

In any case, I started to become more active and cared much more about heart healthy foods. I started running, something I swore I would never do. Those first few times were hard. Really. Really. Unbearably. Hard. But, gradually the pace became easier and I learned to control my breath and keep my heartrate from going wild. I'm still not "a runner", but I love how it makes my body feel and should be less interested in categorizing like that anyway.

Since joining the gym, I've been focused on cardio from the start. When asked what my goals are, I told the rep "I'm not focused on weight, I'm not focused on muscle, I above all want to strengthen my cardiovascular system." The other stuff I know, will fall in along with that. My biggest goal right now is to keep my heartrate in my target zone without going over, which is quite a challenge. I've always been a bit tacacardic (slightly elevated heart rate), so it kicks up pretty high if I'm not paying attention. Hopefully, in a few months I'll learn how to do it naturally, and the risk of heart attacks will go down.

If there are any heart-friendly tips, recipes, or exercises that you know of, please leave a comment below so I can check them out!

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